homepage logo

$78K grant to nix substance abuse

By Staff | Nov 26, 2010

The State of West Virginia has given a $78,000 grant to the United Way of the Eastern Panhandle and Family Resource Network of the Panhandle, Inc. (FRN). This grant can be extended for three additional years.

Keleigh Taylor, who has been hired as the new director of the Substance Abuse Prevention Service Program of the United Way, will use the grant to implement substance abuse services in the region.

It will focus on three problems: underage drinking, prescription addictions and the health of women in child bearing years. The goal will be to increase community awareness in order to prevent these problems.

Taylor plans to start working with the schools right away. The first program will commence in December.

“Sticker Shock” is a program that has worked well in other counties. Middle school students compete to design a sticker that will be placed on alcohol bottles in local retail stores to discourage underage drinking. The stickers will remind those buying the bottle not to share it with those underage.

“Kids take ownership of the program because it is their sticker they see on the bottles,” said Teresa Warnick, program director of the FRN.

In conjunction with the schools, Taylor will also organize several events that are alcohol-, tobacco- and drug-free for youth to enjoy.

One of the other problems addressed is the addiction to prescription medicine. Taylor said “one source of drugs is the family medicine cabinet. Family members, household guests are stealing unfinished prescription medicine or take when needed medicine.”

Take Back events will be organized in conjunction with local pharmacies. These events will allow individuals to bring in unused medicine instead of disposing of it improperly.

Prescription drugs aren’t the only ones being abused.

Substance abuse is a $400-million problem in the Eastern Panhandle, according to the West Virginia Prevention Resource Center (WVPRC). This includes losses felt by employers due to absenteeism or decreased productivity.

Taylor will go to work places and educate supervisors on watching for indications of addiction or abuse. She will also speak to employers about the value of stress release as well as offer alternatives to doing drugs.

“Maybe an employee simply needs a short time off and can come back, better able to cope,” Warnick said.

“Offering healthy stress release will reduce the chance of the person trying to find stress release with a substance,” Taylor said.

Raising awareness can be as simple as telling people that “addiction is a fatal disease,” Warnick said.

It’s not only fatal to those addicted, but also those around them.

The third problem being addressed by the grant is the health of women in child bearing years. A study done by Marshall University Medical School revealed that in August 2010, 10 percent of all babies born at City Hospital had umbilical cord blood levels that showed exposure to either drugs or alcohol.

An average of 900 to 1,000 babies are born at City Hospital each year, said Teresa McCabe, vice president of marketing and development from West Virginia University Hospital-East.

“Clearly, this is a huge health issue in our area,” she said.

Dr. David Chaffin, director of maternal fetal medicine at Marshall, said that “the baby has a chance of being born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, basically baby drug withdrawal, sweating, vomiting, feeling really miserable.”

“Two to three babies die each month due to substance abuse,” Warnick said.

“Nearly every sector of our society spends hefty sums cleaning up the wreckage caused by substance abuse,” according to a report from the WVPRC.

The United Way and FRN hope that the new prevention services may stem the tide of addiction in the Eastern Panhandle. Taylor invites the community to join the effort.

“The more people that get involved and get the messages out to the community, the more effective this grant will be.”

Concerned individuals or businesses can contact Taylor at bccasawv@gmail.com or 304-886-1347.